How three Australian women found ways to put their health first during lockdown

Mukta Arora, 42, has adopted a dog 

When COVID-19 hit Australia, Mukta Arora, like many, had to adjust to fewer hours and working from home.

“It was very difficult to work from home since I have a four-year-old girl … so looking after her, cooking food and doing my job was very difficult to manage,” she told SBS News. “I was really losing my sanity.”

Struggling to adapt to her new routine, Mukta, who lives in Sydney, knew she needed to make a change to ensure her mental and physical health was under control. So she turned to her own backyard.  

“We started going out for walks … we didn’t even know there were beautiful walkways out in this area, and because we couldn’t go out anywhere, we started walking and discovered beautiful places,” she said.

Mukta Arora has turned to exercise during the COVID-19 crisis.

SBS News

Following strict lockdown rules imposed by the New South Wales Government in March, walking became the new normal, and eventually, a newfound hobby for Mukta. It gave her a new routine and a healthier mindset. 

“You need fresh air and some movement to keep your wellbeing,” she said.

But it didn’t stop there. With playgrounds initially closed and her daughter no longer in daycare, Mukta was at a loss on how to keep her entertained. So she adopted a dog called Oreo.

Mukta Arora with her adopted dog Oreo.

Mukta with her adopted dog Oreo.

SBS News

“We got a little dog to keep my daughter engaged. She’s a very active child and she needs to vent out her energy,” she said.

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“He’s a really loving dog … we were lucky to have found Oreo.”

He now joins Mukta on her walks. 

“I think all women need to look after themselves, you cannot give anything out of an empty cup, you need to be well and full of love to be able to share it with your family,” she said.

Allira Potter, 29, has turned to spiritual healing 

Yorta Yorta woman Allira Potter has always been connected to her spirituality.

But describing herself as a “control freak,” the day-by-day doubt of the pandemic had her initially rattled.

“I live by myself, so I sort of just went into that flight or fight mode,” she said. “I’m just taking everything as it comes … I’ve learned now to really slow down.”

Allira Potter

Allira Potter found being away from her community difficult.

SBS News

Living in Geelong, Victoria, and being isolated and separated from her community, family, and close friends, Allira turned to herself more than she had ever done before.

“I felt like I just sort of opened up that spiritual side of myself a lot more because I’ve been put in that position as an extrovert to go inwards,” she said. “I’ve really learned to enjoy being ok with being home all the time.”

She said her positive mindset has also been aided by healing crystals and through meditation. 

“People would say, ‘they’re just rocks’, but they hold a lot of meaning depending on where they have come from,” she said.    

“If certain crystals come from Country I feel they hold spiritual meaning behind that … or if I’m feeling flat I’ll look to a green calcite [crystal] for healing.”

Allira said the societal expectations she feels as an Aboriginal woman added to the stress of the pandemic.

“As an Aboriginal woman in that space in society, I feel I always have to be showing up and doing my part for myself and community,” she said.

“I feel that society puts this pressure on Black people, so to speak. We have to be doing good and we have to be doing this to break down those stigmas based on minorities.”

Allira said women especially should be looking after themselves.

“I think women should be focusing first and foremost on their mental health and their overall wellbeing,” she said.

“Given the current climate we’re in, now’s the time to shift that focus and to not be afraid to be selfish, put you first and self-care.”

Alicia Temmerman, 43, has started an online community for women 

Melbourne based Alicia Temmerman works part-time from home whilst supervising her children’s remote schooling. 

She said the city’s strict lockdown enforced in August became overwhelming. 

“We wanted to just curl up into a ball, like ‘seriously is this happening?'” she said.

“There are definitely times where it’s really a struggle and it’s difficult when every kid wants you at the same time, that can definitely be hard.”   

Unable to leave the house as much as she’d like, Alicia knew she needed to prioritise her health.

“I’m not great personally being disciplined with my exercise and my health, and so I thought there needs to be a way I can help other women during this time and something we could access online,” she said.

She created ‘Thrive – Free Women’s Online Wellness Classes’, a Facebook group which now has more than 5,000 members. 

“I thought of creating this Facebook group where other female health practitioners could offer their time and their gifts, and provide different offerings and free classes into the groups, so really women helping women,” she said. 

The sessions include home workouts, wellbeing talks across a range of health areas, guided mediation, and opportunities to connect with other women through online conversations. 

Alicia on a video call

Alicia started an online community for women.

SBS News

“Getting up and moving their body, listening to inspiring talks across a spectrum of wellness, has been really helpful for them,” Alicia said.

“It’s been so good because it’s also had that connection element that we really need right now.”

Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyond

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

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